Packaging and labelling requirements

If you sell a prepackaged non-food product in Canada, you must ensure the package label meets the requirements of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations.

Under the law, prepackaged non-food products sold to consumers must be labelled with accurate and meaningful information before they are sold. This is to help buyers make informed purchasing decisions and to protect them from false or misleading claims.

Sellers must therefore comply with a number of mandatory requirements when labelling different types of prepackaged products. These requirements apply to the kind of information that must be included and to how and where the label must be displayed.

Some products (for example, food, drugs, and medical devices) are exempt from these requirements.

Exempt products

The following products are exempt from all requirements of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Regulations:

  • drugs and medical devices (as defined in section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act)
  • any food (as defined in section 2 of the Safe Food for Canadians Act. Note: pet food is not exempt.)
  • products intended only for commercial, industrial, or institutional use
  • products intended only for export
  • products sold only to a duty-free store
  • prepackaged textile articles (as defined in section 21 of the Textile Labelling and Advertising Regulations)
  • replacement parts for consumer durables (for example, cars, appliances) provided these products are not displayed to consumers
  • certain artists’ supplies:
    • colours for painting, dyeing, or printing
    • ceramic and enamel colours and glazes
    • surfaces and tools

Products subject to other regulatory requirements

The requirements under sections 4, 5, 6, and 10 of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (which deal specifically with requirements regarding labels, advertising, packaging, and net quantity information) do not apply to any prepackaged products that fall under the labelling requirements of any of the following:

Obtain information on labelling requirements for products under the Feeds Act, Fertilizers Act, Seeds Act, or Pest Control Products Act

For products under the Feeds Act, Fertilizers Act, or Seeds Act, contact the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada office in your area or call 1-866-367-8506 (outside Canada: 204-926-9650).

For products under the Pest Control Products Act, contact the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada at 1-800-267-6315 (outside Canada: 613-736-3799).

Basic requirements

When labelling prepackaged goods for consumers, it is important for you to be familiar with the following:

  1. The information that needs to be on the label (mandatory information)
  2. Where the label needs to be placed (mandatory location)
  3. The need to ensure that all information on the label is accurate and not misleading

1. Mandatory information

The label on a prepackaged product must include three key components:

  • the “product identity declaration” (this is the product’s common or generic name, or its function)
  • the net quantity of the package contents
  • the dealer name and place of business

2. Mandatory location

The label must be placed on the principal display panel, which is the part of the label that is located on the principal display surface. The definition of the principal display surface depends on the type of container being labelled. A container refers to a receptacle, package, wrapper, or confining band within which a product is offered for sale.

3. Accuracy

Under the law, all information on the label must be accurate and the packaging must not be misleading. The container or the packaging must be constructed, filled, and displayed so that consumers can clearly determine the quality and quantity of the product.

Detailed requirements

For important information about mandatory information and bilingual requirements, text size, units of measurement, and other important details as well as labelling examples, see Detailed labelling requirements.

Penalties for non-compliance

Being compliant with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act means you must ensure the requirements listed above are followed. Therefore, the label must include all mandatory information (including the product name or function, net quantity, and dealer name and address. In addition, the law expressly prohibits the display of false or misleading information on the label. This includes written descriptions as well as figures or symbols.

To enforce compliance with the consumer packaging and labelling legislation, our inspectors can do any of the following:

  • enter any place at any reasonable time
  • examine prepackaged products
  • open packages
  • examine and make copies of documents
  • seize products, labelling, packaging, or advertising material that do not conform with the Act and Regulations.

Anyone convicted of contravening the Act is liable to a fine of up to $5,000 on summary conviction, or up to $10,000 upon indictment. In addition, non-compliance with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act can result in being non-compliant with the deceptive marketing provisions of the Competition Act. Under the Competition Act, it is against the law for anyone to make (or permit the making of) a public claim about a product that is false or misleading in a material way. The penalties for contravening the Competition Act are as follows:

  • Civil penalties:
    The court may order the person not to engage in such conduct, to publish a corrective notice, to pay restitution to purchasers and/or pay a penalty.

    For individuals, the penalty for first-time violations is up to the greater of:

    • $750,000 ($1 million for each subsequent violation); and
    • three times the value of the benefit derived from the deceptive conduct, if that amount can be reasonably determined.

    For corporations, the penalty for a first-time violation is up to the greater of:

    • $10 million ($15 million for each subsequent violation); and
    • three times the value of the benefit derived from the deceptive conduct, or, if that amount cannot be reasonably determined, 3% of the corporation’s annual worldwide gross revenue
  • Criminal penalties:
    • Summary conviction offence: Anyone found guilty of a summary offence is liable to a fine of up to $200,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.
    • Indictable offence: Anyone convicted of an indictable offence may be subject to a fine decided at the discretion of the court and/or imprisonment of up to 14 years.

In most cases, non-compliance with the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act is solved through negotiation or collaborative resolution with the parties.

How to ensure compliance with the law

You can protect your business by having an effective compliance program in place. This will help your company comply with the law and it could reduce the risks associated with non-compliance. Like an early-warning system, a compliance program can help you detect and correct unlawful conduct quickly before it damages your company, your reputation, and your bottom line.

Further reading

Additional information about the requirements for labelling prepackaged non-food products in Canada can be found at the following links: